On Self-Esteem as an Artist (please read)
Today my design teacher started a revisions-session on our assignments by saying that the classroom was an “ego-less” zone. Which meant that, even though you might be a good artist, you should avoid entering a classroom thinking you don’t need any tips, that your art is the best out there. Makes sense. Especially with a skill such as drawing, you can never really achieve “perfection” - as you improve and change as an artist, your idea of “that perfect drawing” will also improve and change.
On the flip side, and more importantly, is that you should never enter a classroom thinking you suck. I recently wrote a post about self-esteem and attitude here. I just thought I’d re-emphasize some points:
I think the biggest issue I see is that people in general do not know how to accept compliments towards their art. If someone says “Wow, your art is really good!” they’re saying it because they genuinely mean it. When they hear back “no it’s not, it sucks,” I think, at least in my experience, that person who gave the compliment then feels bad themselves. They feel like their generous words meant nothing, that their own opinion means nothing. I see amazing art, and I want to let that artist know, and I want them to feel good about their skill that they’ve honed.
When you receive a compliment to your art, or to anything really, just respond with a “thanks!”. It is not arrogant to appreciate praise. When you accept a compliment, it validate’s the complimenter’s opinion and everyone wins. They are not lying when they say they like your product. Accepting the compliment also encourages a dialogue - they can then ask things like how long you’ve been doing art, advice on different techniques, etc.
Too often I hear from my peers “oh no, don’t look at my work, it’s horrible.” Why? Why do they think that? Did they join the animation program just to complain to more people about their inferior skills? Are they trying to fish for compliments? I don’t think that’s it - I think, unfortunately, it is somewhere in our nature to assume we are inferior. The reason behind that attitude probably has something to do with society and our educational system and never being good enough blah blah - that’s too complicated for my limited psychology knowledge.
An anon recently sent me this message:
“…for the past few months i just cant draw, nothing seems good enough and then i look at other peoples art an know that im never going to be as good and it just discourages me even more, so long story short i am kind of in an art block and i dont know what to do. im the best at drawings faces but everything else im eh at so i dont feel like its worth it but everyone keeps telling to keep going. any tips? advice?help”
I’ve received this theme of message before, and have heard it many times in real life - “why do I bother I’ll never be good as [insert amazing artist here].” I replied to this message by basically saying that every single artist, regardless of talent, relates to this feeling of comparative inferiority. We all see amazing artists online, sharing their masterpieces, pining one day to be that talented. If you’re constantly up-comparing yourself to artists who have been in the industry for YEARS longer than yourself then you’re going to automatically get frustrated. You need to draw to improve past how you drew the day before.
***You need only compare your skills to your past self.***
It’s all about striking a balance between modesty and self-esteem - if someone gives you a compliment, accept it. Realize that this person is taking the time to celebrate your skills. You deserve to have your skills acknowledged. Be open to constructive criticism, because if someone is taking the time to actually analyze your work and offer ways to improve it - as in, beyond just saying “Oh hey that drawing is cool”, to “You’re moving in the right direction. I think you could improve [thing] by [adjustment], and maybe try adding [things] there and there.”
It can get very overwhelming, looking at all the amazing artwork online, thinking about all the talent in the world. But remember - all of those artists had to start from somewhere. Like any skill, practice and hard work is necessary to excel. Get inspired, create, revise and learn, and create some more. Most importantly, realize that you deserve to create art. The world can never have too much art.